TV Review: ‘24’ Searches For ‘Redemption’ With Prequel to Season Seven
CHICAGO – After a delay that lasted well in excess of a year, “24” returns to FOX this Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008 from 7 to 9 p.m. with a two-hour “special event” (they used to just be called “TV movies”) called “24: Redemption”.
The prequel to season seven of “24” intends to bridge the gap between day six and seven for Jack Bauer and set the plot in motion for what promises to be an interesting reboot of a show that hasn’t been on the air in almost two years.
The 2008 writer’s strike delayed the seventh season of “24” by an entire year. The show, which has never aired under anything but the George Bush presidency, now faces a brave new world when Jack Bauer starts another ticking clock in early 2009.
The writers of this prequel “event” are keenly aware that not only has their show been off the air for a lifetime in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of television but also that they need to appeal to an audience that’s preparing for the much-debated “change” that has been promised by new president elect Barack Obama.
Obama will be the man in the Oval Office for nearly all of season seven of “24”.
While it may or may not carry over to the upcoming season of the show, there’s an interesting new dynamic at play in “24: Redemption”. The trademark “torture first; ask questions later” attitude of “24” has been replaced (at least in this prequel) by a more idealistic world view with a hero who saves the day and a new president who promises change.
Thankfully, Kiefer Sutherland never looks into the camera and says: “Mr. president, yes we can.” It’s still a dark and brutal program, but there has clearly been a creative reassessment of the show. It’s the kind of self-awareness that could resurrect a series that looked like its popularity might be sliding away with Bush and Cheney’s ever-plummeting approval ratings.
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) battles an international crisis in the special two-hour prequel event “24: Redemption”.
Photo credit: Kelsey McNeal, FOX Broadcasting
The sixth season of “24” ended with Jack Bauer once again alone and without support. The seventh season picks up four days later with Jack in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee. He’s forced to answer for his controversial past conduct and “24: Redemption” is meant to bridge those two Jacks.
Photo credit: Kelsey McNeal, FOX Broadcasting
In the years since season six, Jack has been wandering the globe while finding himself in the fictional country of Sangala, Africa where he works with a special-ops pal named Benton (Robert Carlyle) in a boys’ school.
Of course, no one has worse timing than Jack Bauer. He just happens to be at the school on the same day that a sadistic warlord (Tony Todd) is planning a bloody coup and needs some “little soldiers” to help with the mass murder.
Jack is literally on the road out of town with a backpack over his shoulder when things get serious. He is once again drawn into an international crisis. One minute, he’s off to save the next African village and literally 10 minutes later he’s dodging a rocket launcher.
It’s the classic Bauer dilemma: help out and face the government official (Gil Bellows) trying to bring Jack back to the U.S. for justice or turn his back on innocent children. It’s no contest for our man Jack.
While “Redemption” may be a “24” with no counterterrorist unit (CTU), it hasn’t lost any of its distrust for government and its officials. Gil Bellows is definitely smarmy enough, but even he doesn’t touch just a few minutes with Jon Voight.
Voight is licking his lips at the scenery he plans to chew in season seven as an American businessman who may have ties to terrorism (and a certain bloodthirsty warlord in Sangala). All of this happens to be going down on the day that president elect Allison Taylor (the great Cherry Jones) is taking over residence in the Oval Office.
The scenes between Jones and Powers Boothe’s outgoing president Noah Daniels have a riveting parallel to reality with the two even comparing the new leader’s “idealism” and the old one’s “cynicism”. Daniels delivers the line that President Bush probably wishes he could say to Barack Obama: “Let’s talk after you’ve been sitting in my chair for a while.”
The concept of one government inheriting not only the problems but also possibly the underhanded dealings of the previous one could add a new creative energy to a show that was seriously lacking it in season six. The casting of Jones makes one wonder if the producers of “24” thought Hillary Clinton was the more likely winner on Election Day.
President elect Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones, right) meets with U.S. President Noah Daniels (Powers Boothe, left) before her inauguration in the special two-hour prequel event “24: Redemption”.
Photo credit: Greg Gayne, FOX Broadcasting
Jones and Boothe are spectacular, but “24” has and will always belong to Kiefer Sutherland who doesn’t miss a beat stepping back into Bauer’s well-worn shoes.
“24: Redemption” has an unusual supporting cast in that it introduces some new players for season seven, features several actors who will only be in “24: Redemption” and doesn’t include many of the regular faces (like Mary Lynn Rajskub or the returning Carlos Bernard).
That said, perhaps it’s appropriate that with the exception of Jones’ few scenes we’re reintroduced to “24” with a movie that features Sutherland front and center. If anyone is going to carry the show back from the worst season in its history, it’s going to be Jack Bauer. In the end, “24: Redemption” is really just prologue and back story for what’s to come in season seven.
However, judged as a standalone “event” (as FOX likes to describe it), it comes up a little short. The action in Sangala is too predictable (Bellows, in particular, might as well be twirling a curly-cue mustache as he’s such a stereotypically slimy bad guy) and the pile of coincidences that can sometimes bring down the show hurts the believability of the action in the nation’s capital.
The president elect’s son (Eric Lively) gets involved with the drama surrounding what’s happening in Africa in a way that doesn’t feel plausible at all (which is saying a lot for this show). The real-time structure is stretched as far as it ever has been.
While “24” has always been a program that requires an intense suspension of disbelief, “24: Redemption” seems to need more than average. For a country that recently voted for change, “24: Redemption” seems to be going in the right direction but may not have gone far enough to not look like a Bush-era relic.